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Plastic Pollution Found in Fish Sold in Markets

posted: 09/25/15
by: Discovery.com Staff
Garbage in the water
Orietta Gaspari/iStock

A quarter of fish sold in markets have man-made pollution in their gut, according to a new study from the University of California, Davis. Researchers sampled fish for sale in Californian and Indonesian markets, finding alarming incidences of both plastic and fibrous debris.

Interestingly, the different types of debris found in each location seem to mirror the shortcomings of local waste management infrastructure. Indonesian fish were rife with plastic debris, which likely reflect the nation's lacking landfill and recycling systems.

"Indonesia has some of the highest marine life richness and biodiversity on Earth, and its coastal regions -- mangroves, coral reefs and their beaches -- are just awash in debris," UC-Davis professor and study coauthor Susan Williams says in a news release. "You have the best and the worst situation right in front of you in Indonesia."

Related: 90 Percent of Seabirds Have Plastics in Their Gut

In California, however, 80% of the debris identified was fibrous. Researchers posit that the fibrous material originated from clothing cleaned in washing machines; the small pieces of errant fiber can be difficult to remove during the wastewater treatment process, leaving the threads to flow freely into the ocean.

For now, the direct threat to humans appears to be minimal. Because humans generally eat filleted cuts of fish meat, consumers are unlikely to ingest the contents of an animal's gut. Ongoing research, however, is investigating the notion that chemicals found in plastic pollution could contaminate other parts of a fish's body.

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